World Collection: Belief
Objects, and the ways people use them, can tell us a lot about what people believe. Such objects may be focuses for prayers such as temple ornaments, statuettes of gods and goddesses, or prayer wheels. They may be objects or substances which people believe have the power to directly affect the world around them, such as charms, amulets and offerings. They may be otherwise everyday objects which acquire significance through use in special rituals, ceremonies or festivals.
People who collected objects for museums often misunderstood their meanings or deliberately adapted them to their own purposes. Missionaries, for example, often required locals to give up objects they classed as ‘fetishes’ as part of the process of religious conversion. Some of these objects then ended up in exhibitions in Britain designed to shock audiences with supposed ‘savagery’ and to convince them of the necessity of continued funding for their mission.